Tuesday, January 27, 2015 2:07 pm
Mallam Garba Shehu is the Directorate of Media and Publicity APC Presidential Campaign Organisation. In this interview with AYORINDE OLUOKUN, he spoke about mudslinging campaign against Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd) and other issues
Against all hopes that the campaigns for the 2015 elections will be issues based, it has become a mudslinging battle between the All Progressives Congress, APC and the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP. How did it come to this as somebody who has been involved in this campaign?
I think there is a need to make a slight correction- it is mudslinging by the PDP, not between APC and PDP. APC is not mudslinging the President or the PDP. APC campaign is purely based on issues. Since this campaign started, General Buhari has not for a single day mounted the rostrum to mention Mr. Jonathan or Mrs. Jonathan, Mr. Sambo or Mrs. Sambo and attack them. You can review all the tapes of these rallies. And Buhari’s charge to the Presidential Campaign Council when he inaugurated all of us was that “I have not mandated anybody to sort of go and abuse or attack any other person. Anyone among you who does that is a fifth columnist; he belong to the enemy camp.
So, yes, there is a negative campaign going on but it is by PDP as you can see by the newspapers of Monday where the PDP expressed a death wish for General Buhari. And as I speak to you now, the party and the candidate are trying to calm down followers, telling them that don’t react, because if you react, then PDP has won because that is exactly what they want. They don’t have anything to tell you for the six or so years of the President in office. They have no record to present; neither do they have a record to defend. They want, given the chance, to either create a situation where there will be no election at all or if it takes place, it will be in such chaotic environment, that it would not be credible. They would have rigged it. So, we are saddened by the fact that barely one week after the so called Abuja accord was signed by all the candidates, committing themselves to peaceful electioneering, the PDP has descended to a low that we have seen before, fabricating health certificates from ABU which the University has denied and beyond that, now publishing advertorials asking Nigerians to choose between life and death. And they put General Buhari’s picture with a big question mark, saying ‘what happens to him next,’ after presenting the pictures of former Heads of State who have been killed in office or died in the case of Yar’Adua from natural circumstances.
The question mark on Buhari is to say is he next? And the advertisers are saying we are tired of state funerals. So, we have a serious problem and I think that Advertising Practitioners Council of Nigeria which approves all advertisements before they are published must explain to Nigerians why a death message was published in an advert on the front pages of newspapers. The State Security Services, the Police who are always very keen on doing their duties when it comes to dealing with the opposition I think also have explanations to offer on this situation.
But what is the APC going to do in respect of the advertorials which you said is like wishing death for the candidate of your party?
People who are expecting APC to go and buy advert pages for similar gutter advert with death threats will be disappointed. Our candidate will not permit this kind of thing to be done against Mr. Jonathan or his family. What we are saying is that the law enforcement agencies should do their duty. Our plea to our supporters is that we are on the home run, PDP is scared with it back against the wall and they know that they are losing this election. So, they would rather bring down the roof than fold their hands and watch themselves being humiliated out of office. So, having known this then, the big challenge for us is to make sure that we keep our supporters in line, that they are not provoked, that they don’t react irrationally to this death threat on General Buhari.
Some of the issues are very simple and it will seem as if APC had responded PDP would not have been able to make it an issue, for example, if General Buhari had applied to the military and obtained copies of his certificate and made them available to the media, the controversies would have ended there…
Let me tell you this, even if the certificate issue is settled today, they will look for another thing. In the last 24 hours, it was health. After health, maybe it will be the kind of dresses General Buhari is wearing or shoes that he is not wearing the kind of shoes that the PDP want him to wear. They must stay on these inconsequential matters because they don’t want spotlight to be on corruption, security, Chibok girls, Boko Haram, economy. Look at this fuel thing- the price of petrol has fallen by half all over the world. The USA has reduced the price of petrol by half but they are giving us 10 per cent. Who is keeping the balance of 40 per that they are taking from me and you?
They don’t want us to talk about these things; they don’t want us to talk about jobs for our teeming youths. These are the issues in this election and PDP has no answers for them. So, I bet you Buhari can bring whatever certificates he has, he can bring the most credible medical report, PDP will still go and look for the manner of his speech and the way he walks or his family members, you know that kind of thing. So, they are not interested in issues because they have nothing to defend.
You’ve been in the thick of this campaign. Do you really think the APC has chance against PDP?
The chances have never been this bright for any opposition political party in the country. Do you know that some weeks ago, they couldn’t open APC office in Bayelsa when the flags were up, even the Police could not secure APC office because of the massive crowd that our presidential campaign drew in Bayelsa. I was with them. In Calabar, people were beating drums, young people were walking on foot following our convoy, from the Airport to the venue of the rally. So, the thing is that you can almost feel and touch the sense of urgency for change in the feeling of Nigerians who want change now. They are doing billboards, spending billions of naira on billboards. If you are driving from the Airport, every lamplight on the road has two wings of Jonathan’s photograph. You can no longer listen to radio; it is boring watching some of these independent television stations and not to talk of the ones owned by government. But the surprising thing is that they are not making any impact because Nigerians are not listening. So, the journey to the change has begun and from every indication, Nigerians are not willing to turn back.
But don’t you think this muckraking may affect General Buhari at the polls as it may influence the way many perceive him?
No, in fact, what is happening is that the more they do this, the more they are alienating themselves from the Nigerian public. That’s what they don’t realise.